As a packaging engineer, adapting to consumer preferences isn’t always easy, but if you can comprehend exactly what makes the difference in the consumer’s decision to buy or not buy, then you can identify cost-saving opportunities and sustainability improvements across the entire supply chain.

Packaging plays an important role in the overall consumer experience for a food and beverage brand. According to a newly released packaging study, a product is only as good as its first impression. In fact, two-thirds of respondents placed all food and beverage packaging categories (such as ice cream and snacks) on the fun and engaging side versus the frustrating side. Shoppers also indicated that they like recyclable, easy and colorful packaging –which are important to keep in mind when designing the package.

But beyond designing fun and engaging packaging, I found key takeaways packaging engineers can learn from the study– and these three in particular I plan to share with my own clients when consulting on projects moving forward.

Plan for e-commerce

As new commerce channels emerge, the need for specialized packaging increases, enabling brands to gain a competitive edge in the marketplace. To expedite your brand’s sales, think about the growing channel during packaging ideation and iterations.

According to the study, 47% of shoppers expect the product image online to exactly match the packaging that arrives on their doorstep. Since the customer wants the package on their doorstep to be identical to the packaging they see both online and in-store, it’s imperative you keep that in mind during the design process and create brand packaging consistency across all purchasing channels.

Think (sustainable materials) green

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Consumers value recyclable materials, so a packaging engineer’s goal should be to create structurally sound packaging that can also be recycled.

However, according to our survey, 34% of respondents say they also like re-purposing the packaging. With the shift to recyclable materials and shopper preferences to reuse packaging, packaging engineers should reconsider the types of sustainable materials used to protect food and beverages in new product launches and when rebranding current products. 

And today, new sustainability practices are the norm for many consumer packaged goods companies. Large corporations like Nestlé and Pepsi promise to make 100% of their packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025, and companies such as Mondelez International plan to eliminate 65,000 metric tons of packaging in the near future. 

Digitization of the packaging value chain

When adapting to the rapidly changing shopper preferences, how quickly can your brand’s packaging refreshes appear on store shelves?

According to InfoTrends, packaging professionals reported that packaging changes take an average of 198 days, but what if there was a way to cut that time in half?  By digitizing your packaging functions, you can generate more creativity in-house, increase efficiency and decrease departmental confusion by enabling more cross-departmental communication. And there’s plenty of opportunities to digitize, automate and connect your packaging process, as a recent McKinsey article found that most industries are less than 40% digitized, and that CPG as an industry is the least digitized of all. 

As online shopping continues to grow, packaging engineers should try to make these small changes to food and beverage packaging.  Implementing some of these key takeaways from this study will help to increase customer purchases through e-commerce and other traditional channels – while improving department and company efficiency, too!

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